Buckman finds the right communications chemistry by switching to Office 365

Buckman is a specialty chemical company based in Memphis, TN, which produces chemistries for water treatment and for the paper and leather industries. With people, factories and customers all over the world, Buckman communicates across geographies, teams and time zones all the time. It recently swapped a complex multi-vendor communications and collaboration toolset for Microsoft Office 365. The result has been smoother, more effective collaboration among the company’s 1,700 associates, higher reliability, lower costs and tighter control over email and data. We recently sat down with Tim Meek, vice president of Global Information Technology at Buckman, and Paul Grassel, director of Global IT Computer Services, to learn more about why Buckman switched to Office 365.

Q: Give us a brief history of your communications and collaboration landscape.

Meek: Microsoft Outlook has been our standard for a long time. Even as our email systems evolved, Outlook has been the constant.

Q: Why Outlook?

Grassel: Because our associates have always used the entire Office suite, and Outlook is part of that. They rely heavily on Outlook and consider it the go-to “workhorse” application that they use on a daily basis. In 2011, however, we adopted popular cloud-based products for email and file-sharing. We liked the idea of not having to maintain email servers and software around the world. We had also been using PlumTree Portal since 2005 for collaboration and several document management systems.

Q: Sounds like things were getting complicated.

Meek: They were. We ended up with a complex, multi-vendor environment that was expensive and difficult to support and maintain.

Q: Was there a point at which cracks began to appear?

Meek: After providing great integration with Outlook for several years, our cloud vendor seemed to back off its Outlook support. We were experiencing problems with their Outlook syncing tool; calendar syncing became unreliable. We didn’t feel we were receiving full support from them for new versions of Outlook.

Grassel: Plus, there were other problems. We were experiencing email delivery delays of several days in China, which cost us business. That drove some of our people in China to use alternative communication systems—not good for security and compliance.

Q: So there were some trust issues?

Meek: Yes. Also, around then, it was time to upgrade or replace PlumTree. With the collaboration capabilities included in Office 365, we saw an opportunity to reduce complexity and consolidate vendors. Simplicity, speed and reliability are our IT themes at Buckman, and Microsoft is one of our primary vendors.

Grassel: We also saw a constant flow of new capabilities in Office 365, and capabilities that made sense. The acquisition of Yammer is one example; Yammer integrates well with the other Office 365 tools.

Meek: Our previous cloud products were easy to use but designed with more of a consumer mindset. Microsoft products are full-featured and getting easier to use all the time, especially the Office 365 mobile apps. We felt that Office 365 had the reliability, transparency and control required for our global organization.

Q: Give me a sense of how Office 365 has changed the way people work at Buckman.

Meek: Office 365 has given us a platform to better perform as teams. We have people working across geographies in every area of the company (sales, manufacturing, R&D, customer service), and with Office 365, they can collaborate more easily.

Meek: I get on Office 365 a couple times a day to lead our global IT workgroup. We’re sharing documents, booking dates in our shared calendar and using Lync Online presence to quickly see if team members are available for a chat or phone conversation. Our CEO uses Lync to discuss progress on strategic initiatives with Buckman global leadership located around the world. He’s a big advocate for its use to improve Buckman’s ability to connect and collaborate.

Grassel: PlumTree was so complex that it required IT to manage sites and content for business areas. But associates are able to manage sites and information in Office 365 on their own.

Q: Has it made your jobs easier?

Grassel: For sure. We no longer have to keep up with licenses purchased through different channels or keep up with media for each version of Office, much less who is licensed for each. Major transitions to new versions of Office are a thing of the past with Office 365 Click-to-Run.

Grassel: I can manage Office 365 licenses from one master console and lock down individual mailboxes and files if someone leaves the company. This really helps with security and compliance.

Q: What kind of savings have you seen?

Meek: We’ve been able to pull the plug on PlumTree and the document management systems. We save on servers, licensing and support. We have achieved a greater level of simplicy, speed and reliability with the integrated platform of Office 365 that keeps all of our associates’ software up-to-date with a consistent set of productivity tools.

Q: Sounds like a win all the way around.

Meek: It has been. A big win for Buckman, its associates and its customers.

For the full story read the Buckman case study.